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Renowned war filmmaker, prize-winning photojournalist killed in Libya

Oscar-nominated war-film director Tim Hetherington and a second prize-winning photojournalist,  Chris Hondros, die in Libya covering embattled Misrata.
Image: Photographer Chris Hondros gravely injured in Misrata
Getty Images photographer Chris Hondros, left, stands in front of a burning building while on assignment, in Misrata, Libya, on Monday. At right, photojournalist Tim Hetherington, who directed the documentary 'Restrepo,'  is seen during an assignment for Vanity Fair Magazine in Afghanistan. Both died Wednesday covering fighting in Misrata.Getty Images / Handout / EPA
/ Source: NBC, and news services

An Oscar-nominated war-film director and a second prize-winning photojournalist died covering a battle between rebels and Libyan government forces in the western city of Misrata on Wednesday.

Two other Western photographers apparently working alongside them were wounded.

British-born Tim Hetherington, co-director of the 2010 documentary "Restrepo" about U.S. soldiers on an outpost in Afghanistan, was killed, said his U.S.-based publicist, Johanna Ramos Boyer.

Chris Hondros, a New York-based photographer for Getty Images, died later Wednesday after suffering a serious head wound, according to Getty's director of photography, Pancho Bernasconi.

, colleague Andre Liohn told The New York Times. The report said Liohn was at the triage center where medics treated the injured journalists after the attack.

Protective equipment has been difficult to bring into Libya from Egypt, The Times report said, as customs officials have thwarted the transport of equipment like helmets and flak jackets.

Doctors said two other photographers were treated for shrapnel wounds: Guy Martin, a Briton affiliated with the Panos photo agency, and Michael Christopher Brown, a New York-based photographer originally from Skagit Valley, Wash.

The bodies of Hetherington, 41, and Hondros, 41, were taken from Misrata to Benghazi on Thursday by the International Organization for Migration aboard the Ionian Spirit, which had been brought in to evacuate civilians from Misrata, according to a statement by Human Rights Watch.

Jeremy Haslam, a coordinator for the Geneva-based organization, said the boat had more than 1,000 evacuees, including 239 Libyan civilians and 586 migrants from Niger and others from Africa and Asia.

Martin and Brown remained in the hospital in Misrata.

Martin had shrapnel wounds and was undergoing surgery Wednesday night, The New York Times reported. Brown had shrapnel wounds but his life was reportedly not in danger.

The photographers were reporting from inside the only rebel-held city in western Libya, which has come under weeks of relentless shelling by government troops.

Hetherington tweeted Tuesday: "In besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Indiscriminate shelling by Qaddafi forces. No sign of NATO."

The circumstances of the incident were unclear. Statements from Hetherington's family and from Peter N. Boukaert of Human Rights Watch in Geneva, said he was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade.

Leila Fadel, a Washington Post reporter who was at the hospital, reported that Hetherington was rushed from the battle by ambulance along with rebel fighters. He was taken to a triage tent next to the hospital, she said, and appeared pale and was bleeding heavily. He was pronounced dead some 15 minutes after his arrival, according to her account in The Washington Post.

"Tim was in Libya to continue his ongoing multimedia project to highlight humanitarian issues during time of war and conflict," Hetherington's family said in a statement. "He will be forever missed."

Hetherington was best known as co-director of the documentary film "Restrepo" with Sebastian Junger, author of "The Perfect Storm." The film tells the story of the 2nd Platoon of Battle Company in the 173rd Airborne Combat Team on its deployment in Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008. It was nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary. The title refers to the platoon outpost, named after a popular soldier, Juan Restrepo, who was killed early in the fighting.

Hetherington's coverage of American soldiers in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan also won him the World Press Photo of the Year Award, one of three World Press prizes he has received.

"He was an amazing talent and special human being," Sundance Institute spokeswoman Brooks Addicott said of Hetherington, whose "Restrepo" won Sundance's top documentary award. "We send our sincere condolences to the Hetherington family, to Sebastian Junger and Daniela Petrova, and to Tim's many admirers all over the world."

Hetherington was born in Liverpool and studied literature and photojournalism at Oxford University. Known for his gutsy ability to capture conflict zones on film, his credits included working as a cameraman on the documentaries "Liberia: An Uncivil War" and "The Devil Came on Horseback." He also produced pieces for ABC News' "Nightline."

The White House in a prepared statement said it was "saddened" to learn of Hetherington's death.

"Journalists across the globe risk their lives each day to keep us informed, demand accountability from world leaders, and give a voice to those who would not otherwise be heard," the White House said. "The Libyan government and all governments across the world must take steps to protect journalists doing this vital work."

Hondros had covered wars in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. His work has been widely published around the world. In 2003, Hondros made a picture of a Liberian government soldier with an RPG launcher that became one of the most iconic documents of that civil war.

In 2006, Hondros was awarded the Robert Capa Gold Medal Award by the Overseas Press Club for a series of images from Tal Afar, Iraq, in which U.S. soldiers mistakenly opened fire on an Iraqi family’s car. The next year, in a video interview with, Hondros said "I’m glad that those pictures exist, because it documents a circumstance that happens a lot there, and that people need to know about."

Hondros was born in New York City and moved to Fayetteville, N.C., as a child. He studied English literature at North Carolina State University and got a master's degree at Ohio University School of Visual Communication. He worked as a photographer for his hometown paper, the Fayetteville Observer and from there came to New York. He worked for the AP, freelanced and eventually became senior staff photographer at Getty.

Mohamed Abdel Dayem, program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists in the Middle East and North Africa, told Reuters this week that the number of attacks on the media in the Middle East and North Africa since the start of the year was "unprecedented."

"This hasn't happened before, not with this intensity and not with this frequency," he said of the attacks.

Dayem said 14 journalists have been killed worldwide so far this year, with 10 of those deaths in the Middle East and North Africa. Hundreds of other attacks on the media in the region included detentions, destruction of equipment and death threats.

While the Committee to Protect Journalists said press freedom has improved in Egypt and Tunisia since protesters ousted the presidents of both countries this year, it described the situation as only graduating from "horrendous to bad."